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AFRICAN GUARANTEE FUND, AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT BANK KICK OFF AFAWA FINANCE SERIES IN KENYA TO UNLOCK FINANCING FOR WOMEN-LED ENTERPRISES

African Guarantee Fund, in partnership with the African Development Bank through its Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) initiative and in collaboration with the Office of the President’s Advisor on Women’s Rights, inaugurated the 6th edition of the AFAWA Finance Series in Nairobi, Kenya. The 3-day event themed “Enhancing Financial Inclusion for Women”, held between 21-23 November 2023, was a pivotal initiative aiming to revolutionise the financial landscape and foster an enabling environment for women entrepreneurs, facilitating their growth and contribution to the continent’s economic development.

The AFAWA initiative seeks to increase women’s access to finance in the continent by bridging the $42 billion financing gap for women-led and owned small and medium enterprises. Since its inception just over two years ago, the AFAWA initiative has already approved $1.2 billion in funding for women-led enterprises in 32 countries across Africa with a goal to mobilise $5 billion in financing for African women-led businesses by 2026.

“Financial products need to be tailored to women’s unique lived experiences, needs and aspirations from the start not later when at scale,” said Her Excellency Governor Ann Waiguru, Chair of the Council of Governors in Kenya and the chief speaker at the Finance Series Kenya
opening ceremony.

“Financial institutions face a major challenge in understanding and responding to the unique needs of the women entrepreneurs. We need innovative approaches to improve women’s creditworthiness as traditional collateral requirements only serve to reinforce gender inequalities,” she added.

The AFAWA Finance Series emphasised the tangible benefits of gender financing for women-led small and medium enterprises, financial institutions, the Kenyan Government and policymakers. The opening conference was followed by a 2-day training to sensitize lending
institutions on gender smart investing.

“Kenyan women are known for their resilience and tenacity,” Harriette Chiggai, Women’s Rights Advisor to the Office of the President of the Republic of Kenya told reporters, when detailing table banking, grants and other Government programs targeting women entrepreneurs.

“The AFAWA Finance Series is an acknowledgement of our commitment to creating an environment where Kenyan women can access essential financial tools for enterprise and development,” Chiggai added.

The Series explored ways to enhance regulatory frameworks that can boost access to finance for women-led small and medium enterprises, while also building an understanding of AFAWA’s Guarantee for Growth (G4G) mechanism as implemented by the AGF.

“Too many women entrepreneurs across the continent are denied opportunities to grow their businesses. We’re here today to help challenge common misperceptions and emphasize that there’s business to be had in offering financial services to women-led enterprises. AFAWA understands the challenges women face and the initiative is addressing them head on,” said Marie-Laure Akin-Olugbade, Vice President for Regional Development, Integration and Business Delivery at African Development Bank Group.

Research shows women are better at repaying loans than men, and typically reinvest up to 90% of their income in the education, health and nutrition of their families and communities.

“The question we are addressing is how to support women and increase their productivity to fully participate in the GDP of the African economy,” said AGF Group CEO, Jules Ngankam. “Through the AFAWA G4G program we are derisking financial institutions that on-lend to women-led SMEs increasing their appetite for this target market,” he added.

Previous AFAWA Finance Series have been held in Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Angola and Nigeria.

Representing AFAWA’s donor nations at the Kenya launch were His Excellency H.E. Roberto Natali, Ambassador of Italy to Kenya and Her Excellency Caroline Vicini, Ambassador of Sweden to Kenya.